India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli has thrown his full support behind Mohammed Shami, the only Muslim player in the squad, after the fast bowler was abused on social media following the side’s T20 World Cup cricket defeat against Pakistan.
Kohli launched a blistering attack on his team’s critics, blasting them as “spineless” and “pathetic”, reserving particular vitriol for the trolls who blamed Shami for the loss last week.
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Pakistan sealed its first-ever win against India in a World Cup after they beat Kohli’s side by 10 wickets last Sunday.
“There’s a good reason why we are playing on the field and not a bunch of spineless people on social media that have no courage to actually speak to any individual in person,” said Kohli.
“It has become a social pandemic in today’s world, which is so unfortunate and so sad to see because this is literally the lowest level of human potential that one can operate at. And that’s how I look at these people.”
Yes, BCCI fella tried his best to stop him from speaking on Shami, but Kohli refused. And his choice of words for Hindutva hatemongers won my heart! He has sent a powerful message indeed. https://t.co/9fZu0korbm
— Rifat Jawaid (@RifatJawaid) October 30, 2021
Kohli was particularly angry over the abuse aimed at Shami who played in the defeat.
“Attacking someone over their religion is the most pathetic thing that a human being can do. They have no understanding of how much effort we put on the field. They have no understanding of the fact that someone like Shami has won India matches in the last few years.
“Honestly I don’t even want to waste one minute of my life to give any attention to those people and neither does Shami and neither does anyone else on the team.”
In an indication of the passion and controversy generated by the rivalry, Indian police arrested three Muslim students and a teacher for celebrating Pakistan’s crushing victory.
The arrests came after police launched an investigation into several hundred students who burst into celebrations in Kashmir following last Sunday’s match which was watched by millions across South Asia.
Anti-India sentiment is widespread and deep in Muslim-majority Kashmir, a Himalayan territory claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan.
Virat Kohli’s clear, unambiguous statement which highlights the root cause why Mohammad Shami was trolled, is very welcome. ‘Solidarity’ which skirts the whole issue, like the one showed by many veterans of the game, does little to address the problem. Good on you, @imVkohli
— Zoya Rasul (@zoyarasul) October 30, 2021
A popular rebellion against Indian rule erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir in the 1990s, with the rebels demanding either a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan or an independent state.
Among those cheering Pakistan on Sunday were students from the region’s top medical colleges: the Government Medical College and the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, both situated in the main city of Srinagar.
Videos of their celebration outside their residential hostels went viral on social media.
On Tuesday, a senior police official told Al Jazeera that two cases under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) have been filed against an unknown number of students for causing “insult to the national sentiment during the cricket match”.
Prior to the start of their match against Pakistan, the India players took a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and to stamp out racism.